Just as I was going to bed last night, word broke that the Pirates were releasing Erik Bedard. This morning, the team’s confirmed Dejan Kovacevic’s report; the lefty’s short Pirate tenure is over. Pretty much any way you slice it, this is a move that had to happen. Bedard hasn’t been very good in 2012. His 5.01 ERA is higher than his 4.07/4.05 FIP/xFIP, but I think that’s a little misleading. His line drive rate was up quite a bit this year and his HR/FB rate was creeping up, too, despite making half of his starts at PNC Park, which is generally friendly to left handed pitchers and their home run rates. He was getting hit hard most of the time, especially recently. Since his back problems, his ERA was 5.96. Since the All-Star break it’s 5.49. He failed to get out of the fifth in his last two starts. I could keep going on, but that’d be piling on. Bedard was a risk for the Pirates pre-season, but he was a good risk. He started off the season strongly, he faltered, and there didn’t seem to be much the Pirates could do. It’s hard to argue this decision; I think everyone involved probably wishes it would’ve worked out better, but here we are.
The more interesting question now is what the Pirates do to replace Bedard in the rotation. It’s tempting to say something like, “The Pirates can’t waste time with someone like Kevin Correia now; they need to do something bold.” This isn’t an untrue statement, but the reality is that the time do something bold was a month ago. The Pirates got halfway there at the trade deadline; they revamped two-thirds of the outfield and they turned over a key utility spot and they added a starting pitcher. They didn’t go far enough, though; they left Bedard in the rotation thinking that he could rebound, they stuck with Kevin Correia as their sixth starter when they needed an extra guy in the rotation, and they completely failed to address the hole that trading Brad Lincoln left in the bullpen even though they (in theory at least) have the arms to do it at Triple-A. I don’t know if doing any of those things would have prevented the fall that this Pirate team is experiencing right now, but the holes that went unaddressed (and that could’ve been tackled without additional trades) seem pretty glaring in hindsight.
What’s particularly frustrating to me is the timing here; Bedard started on Sunday and the Pirates have an off-day on Thursday. That means that he wouldn’t be asked to start again until September 1st. That means that whoever they call up, they could call up without having to release Bedard and lose his playoff eligibility. That means, basically, that the Pirates have recognized that there’s a problem and that things need to be shaken up ASAP; it’s just that the problem has been apparent for two weeks and they waited until they were three games out of a playoff spot with 34 games left.
All of that being said, we’re well past the point that plugging Kevin Correia into the rotation has any useful functionality. The Pirates are fading in the playoff race and Correia’s a treading-water kind of guy; innings given to him are wasted right now because there’s no real chance of him coming in and winning a game by himself and starting him tells us absolutely nothing about 2013 because Correia’s a free agent that won’t be back next year. The Pirates need to put Jeff Locke or Chris Leroux or Kyle McPherson into the rotation not just because their ceiling is higher than Correia’s, but because they need to know if Leroux can acquit himself as a starter at the big league level and if Locke’s minor league strides will translate to more Major League success and just how far along McPherson is.
The bottom line is that the if the Pirates are going down in this playoff race (and it looks like they are), then they should at least go out with guns blazing. Bring up Leroux. Bring up Locke. Bring up Morris. There’s nothing left to lose in 2012.